A researcher at Sandia National Laboratory has developed an air-bearing heat exchanger, also known as the Sandia Cooler, that could significantly reduce the amount of energy needed to cool computer chips. In fact, it could cut electrical power consumption in the U.S. by 7%, according to Sandia.
In conventional cooling devices used on CPUs, the bottleneck in getting heat out is the layer of dead air clinging to the cooling fins. In the Sandia Cooler, however, heat moves across a narrow (0.001-in.) gap between a stationary base and a rotating structure containing the cooling fins. The spinning structure is shaped to create a centrifugal pumping effect that engulfs the cooling fins and reduces the thickness of the dead-air layer by 90%. Spinning the cooling fins at several thousand rpm also keeps them free of dust and debris, so they maintain their heat-transfer capabilities. The fins are aerodynamically clean, so they do not generate much noise, which would let them be used in PCs.
Sandia prototyped the cooler, building one about 10 cm in diameter, sized for use inside computers
If the technology is scalable, the devices could also be used in HVAC equipment. For more information, Sandia has a technical paper on the device: http://tinyurl.com/5rwvh4l.